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The Children of God (4)

September 6, 2017

The Children of God (4)

 

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 5:1,2.

We come now to our consideration of what I have referred to as the responsibilities assumed by God toward His children in grace, and those with which God has charged his adopted children. That is, those which pertain to God, and those which are ours.

The first of these may perhaps, best be understood under the heading of Principled Love. I refer to this as “principled” because the love of which the Bible speaks is based upon principle, not situation or feeling. That is, God has assumed to Himself the responsibility to discern wisely and consistently what is best for each of His children, at all times and in every situation.

God is not swayed by circumstances and unprincipled feelings of sentimentality as He manifests His love for His children. Though we often cry, whine, and throw tantrums, God is not moved to set aside principle. He does not resign and just give us what we are crying after. If it is not for our best good, or if it is not the best time, it shall be withheld.

But, what about examples in the Bible where it seems just the opposite is true; situations where He does give in to incessant pleading? Like the time when the children of Israel cried for meat in their wilderness wanderings, and when God finally granted it? Or, when the people cried for an earthly king to rule over them like the other nations had? Didn’t they force God into giving them what they wanted even against His better judgment?

And didn’t even Jesus teach a parable about how persistently crying out to God is the only way to  persuade Him to give you what you want? Let’s take a bit deeper look into that example.

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city that kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”

 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 18:1-8

This is one parable that ought to be quite clear in its purpose. In fact, we are even told the reason He taught it: to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” As Jesus told this story, He knew that this crowd would certainly connect with it. They were very familiar with “unrighteous” judges. Men in authority, who “neither feared God nor respected men,” and constantly troubled the people. To this crowd, what Jesus was saying was not simply a story; it was a way of life. But just what was He teaching?

The parable goes on to show how the lowly widow was able to wear down a hardened, uncaring, and unrighteous ruler by her unrelenting persistence. She received her justice by refusing to give up. From this, Jesus told the crowd, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.” Well, what did the unrighteous judge say? ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”

Let me pause here for a moment. The more we get kicked around through life, the more intimate we become with the concept, “not right-not fair.” When those who could respond to our desires and needs, indifferently turn away, these are the words that fill our hearts. Though I have a just cause, the hardness and indifference of the one to whom I am appealing is only bothered, not moved by my pleas. How many times have your children pleaded their cause to you, only to turn angrily away in a huff, screaming, “That’s not fair!”? Each time this this happens, it changes their hearts a little more. Their understanding of justice and love become a little more self-centered. Did you know that this is a very prevalent view of how people in general view God?

These underlying thoughts may not be consciously held, but they are indeed tainting their view of God. Be honest here, have you not found yourself at the point where that desperate, helpless feeling saps away your strength? If left unchecked, this path leads to lethargy, bitterness, and finally, contempt. Tempted to resign that God is entirely indifferent to my plight, I am left to myself to manage. Or, perhaps I must try harder to make Him willing to hear my cause. I will do all I can to appease Him. I will clean up my act and make myself more presentable. Then, He might show me His favor and attend to my cry. I will not admit it, but what I am doing is laboring to obtain justice from an unjust judge.

Now, let me ask you this, do you believe Jesus was comparing the Father to this unjust judge in the parable? Remember, to compare two or more things is to discern their points of likeness. That is, as the judge needed to be incessantly hounded to force his hand, so we who approach our Father in heaven would be wise to do the same? Do you really believe this?

I believe we would do well to understand that Jesus is contrasting the unrighteous inaction of the judge to the readiness of our righteous God. That is, to discern what points of difference exist between the two. Consider again what Jesus said, And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.” What is it that Jesus is teaching us here?

Clearly, we see God’s willingness to respond, do we not? Although Jesus did speak here of God’s unwillingness. He said that God is unwilling to refuse to hear or act swiftly on behalf of those who are calling upon Him. And to whom is He revealing His unfailing commitment? He is speaking to His children, whom He here calls His elect. And, how are they distinguished but by their dependence on their Father, who alone can answer their prayers. And what is He committing Himself to provide? Justice, that is, what God will provide is always consistent with His standard of what is just and righteous. And when will He provide them this? Swiftly, and without delay.

How is it possibly that we can say of God that He responds to our needs swiftly and without delay? We, who know Him, can attest to how many long nights, and days we have asked, and waited. Only to ask still again, and continue to wait.

There are those who will tell you that the lack of earnestness in your prayers is hindering God. They will berate you for the weakness of your faith, which is preventing Him from hearing them. They will beat you down, demanding that you have to prove to Him your utter dependency before He will even consider your cries. You will have to recall, relive, and cleanse yourself from every sin you have ever committed before you can ever expect Him to give attention to you.

Oh, dear child of God, do not fret, nor be afraid, for your Father fully knows your needs and concerns before you even ask. His commitment to you is sealed and settled. His heart is open, and His face is always toward you because you are in Christ, His beloved Son. His power is unlimited, unhindered, and unimaginable. His purposes stand.

How do such examples fit into an understanding that God is never swayed to abandon principle due to circumstances, or even the pained cries of His children? Perhaps the best way to understand these examples, as well as those in our own lives, is to consider the longer view. God knows. He is never surprised. He doesn’t learn the end of a thing in its unfolding as we do. God knows. He knows the end from the beginning, because He is the Author of both.

It is not as some have attempted to frame this, as though God is somehow utterly detached from His creation; unknowable, untouched, unmoved. You may read the daily news and walk away with such a view. However, you cannot read the Bible and arrive at such a conclusion. God is not detached, untouched, and unmoved by the pangs of His creation. Even closer to the point, He is not indifferent to your deep, deep, painful cries.

God not only knows, He feels. He not only knows and feels, He is fully and intimately engaged. Not just generally, but completely engaged. He does not stand aloof, watching; He stands with, beside, behind, and even more vitally, before you. The long view is that His wondrous plan for every aspect of the life of each of His children is known fully. Each experience is inching us towards the glorious consummation for which He created us.

God knows that, at times, the best thing for His children is to give them precisely that for which they are crying. Yes, even though it is perhaps the worst thing possible for them. The resulting bitter experience has its keen design as well. The long view of God in such times is to bring His children to new levels of maturity, discernment, trust, obedience, and commitment.

How often have you cried out for something, and when it was finally granted, it brought no satisfaction at all? Rather, it brought pain, or sorrow, or further frustration. Perhaps even now you’re in the middle of such a predicament. This is the time to be reminded, God knows. He is working with you, leading you through to the other side, where such experiences form a more mature and principled foundation.

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” – John’s first letter, chapter 3:1

Literally, “what foreign kind of love” the Father has bestowed on us. Not like the unprincipled, undiscerning love, which many of us knew as we were growing up. When our tantrums did move our fathers and mothers to forsake principle for pragmatism – anything for the sake of some peace and quiet. Our Father in heaven is not so.

But we must not stop here without returning briefly to our starting point.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 5:1,2.

Whether you read it as “be followers,” or “be imitators,” this passage speaks of our primary duty of “imitation”following in God’s footsteps, as it were. We have seen how God, our Father, exercises a wise, discerning, consistent, and principled love towards us, who are His children in grace. Though it is our privilege to be benefactors of that love, it is our duty to imitate the same. It is ours to do as He does.

We who are fathers must look to our Father who is in heaven for the pattern. It is our charge to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Our love of our children, of which we so frequently boast, must become principled if it is to be patterned after God’s love. It must be discerning, wise, and consistent if it is to produce good fruit. And there is no other source where such wisdom and discernment can be found than in His Word, opened to us by His Spirit. There is no natural strength in us that can produce the consistency necessary for our love’s labor to make the deep impression we so desire for our children. We are fully dependent upon our God and Father. And that’s the best place for us to be.

There is yet one more question to pose. We have said that with every responsibility there is a corresponding privilege. We have seen that God has assumed the responsibility of principled love towards His children. We have been startled at the wonder of the privileges we now, and will forever partake. We have also, somewhat painfully seen the great responsibility that is ours in this relationship. We are to be followers, imitators, and bearers of the same “foreign kind of love” that He has given us in Christ.

Still, we must ask, “What’s in it for God?” What privilege could possibly be His to partake?

We are.

Consider below, this somewhat random display of scriptures. These unveil some little portion of how God, our Father in heaven, partakes of His “privileges” in this gracious filial relationship He has established with us. We, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

 Hear, John echo’s the heart of the Father, and of Jesus, His Son, as he rejoices over his brothers and sisters in the faith.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

– John’s third letter, verse 4

And throughout the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Prophets we find the people of God lifting their unquenchable praise and thanksgiving unto their Lord God, rejoicing in all of His works.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”     Psalm 13:5

 “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul” – Psalm 31:7

 “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!” – Psalm 40:16

 “May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.” – Psalm 104:34

 “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.” – Proverbs 23:24

 “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

The scriptures are filled, no, saturated with this wonderful truth, that God exults in the love and praises, which His children freely offer Him. Out of the deepness and earnestness of our redeemed hearts, we offer our thanksgiving and praise. It is a chorus of living voices that is even now filling eternity. The strength and volume of that praise is growing in intensity towards the crescendo, the consummation of that great love, which He has gifted.

He sees our lives being changed, our hearts becoming more filled with His love, our eyes being opened to discern more of that love. He sees and rejoices in His children in the intimacy of fellowship, and in the steady tenderness of a Father’s love. This is His privilege, and He partakes of the richness of it fully to His intense satisfaction.

 Hallelujah!

– higherfragrance

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The Children of God (3)

August 20, 2017

The Children of God (3) 

In our previous study, we continued our exploration of a central biblical theme drawn from this brief text.

 

 

 

 

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 5:1,2.

Focusing on the words, “as beloved children,” we began to consider some of the richness of the biblical teaching regarding Adoption. However, as Paul wrote this text, it is clear that he did not use the specific word, adoption. Why is that?

I closed our second post by proposing a somewhat succinct definition of the term, adoption as it is used in the Bible. Drawing upon several passages, my definition sought to distinguish that although Adoption is intimately connected to the biblical teaching on redemption, salvation, or deliverance from sin, it is not specifically dealing with the same subject. Though it is also related to the new birth, or regeneration, its emphasis is not the same.

All of these terms, however, are directly related to the answer of this vital question:

“How is it then, that some among the fallen children of Adam come to be called “the children of God?”

The Bible’s teaching is clear and consistent regarding the consequences of Adam’s rebellion in the Garden. Paul, speaking to those believers in Ephesus, whom he referred to just a few sentences earlier in this fashion,

     “In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 1:4-6.

and,

     “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us…” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 1:7,8.

also, goes on to declare,

     “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 2:1-3.

Clearly, if you are to believe the Bible, you cannot escape the universal fact that, none of us enter this world free of sin’s consequences. Simply stated, we are not naturally children of God.

In our earlier posts we began to see that for one to be adopted and accepted as beloved child, presupposes that until that moment, he was not. This required God’s direct intervention, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, in Christ’s giving up of Himself to suffer the full penalty of the consequences of the rebellion. Thus, accomplishing redemption, which is the foundation of the good news of the gospel.

The gospel declares what God, in Christ has accomplished, why it was necessary, and how these things have inescapable relevance to you and me. Accompanied with the power of God, the proclamation of this good news opens the eyes and hearts of some, and further darkens and hardens others. For those who hear, and by faith believe, entrusting themselves fully to Christ, their redemption is sealed. The Holy Spirit is given to indwell and empower them until they enter the fullness of their inheritance in heaven.

For those who, through their natural inclination, pay no attention to this good news, or ridicule and reject it, continue in their natural condition, under God’s wrath. Their continued rejection leads them deeper into sin, and its dark and harsh affects.

     “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Paul to the Romans, chapter 5:8-11.

When considering the immeasurable richness of this relationship with God, which we who are believers have been given entrance, what else can we do but rejoice in such a wondrous salvation?

Redeemed, reborn, reconciled, adopted as beloved children, sealed by the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who stands as the security of our future entrance into our full inheritancethis is the salvation of which the Bible speaks!

In our on-going studies, we will continue to trace out this thread, with our focus narrowing upon Adoption. I will attempt to follow the general points of my proposed definition, but we’ll see how that goes. I would like to close this post with an extended quote from a tremendously gifted man. I believe this will help to pull together what we have seen thus far.  This excerpt is from David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ (born, 1899) expositions of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 1.

     “This term ‘adoption’ is a most interesting one. The Apostle Paul is the only writer in the New Testament who uses it, and there is little doubt but that he borrowed it from Roman law. It is a term, an idea, of which the Jews knew nothing. It was no part of their legal system; but it was a term used by the Romans.

Now the Apostle Paul was a Roman citizen and he had lived in that atmosphere; so he naturally uses this term. Under Roman law adoption secured for the adopted child a right to the name and to the property of the person by whom he had been adopted. The moment a child was adopted by a person, that child had legal right, an absolute legal right, to make such claims. On the other hand, Roman law granted to the person who adopted the child all the rights and privileges of a father. It worked both ways.

The Apostle obviously uses the term in order to convey the particular idea of the place or status of a son. It is a purely forensic or legal term…which defines standing or status, rank, privilege, and position. Its emphasis is not on the nature of the child so much as upon the rank of the child.

Let me illustrate. If you say of a person that he is an adopted child, you are saying that he is not in a blood relationship to a certain man and woman. He has not a natural connection with them but he has been legally adopted by them; he stands as their child though he does not actually partake of their nature.

It is this distinction, which the Apostle employs here, and obviously is an important one. The nature of a Christian as a new man in Christ, as a son, is determined not by adoption but by regeneration. We become children of God because we are born again, because we have become ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ because the Holy Spirit enters into us, because we are born from above, because we are a new creation.

Receiving this we become the children of God. But that is not conveyed by the term, ‘adoption,’ which does not place the emphasis upon the common nature, which we have, but entirely upon the legal standing, upon the rank, the position; and upon the privileges that come from that position. In other words, adoption can be defined as the proclaiming of the new creature in his new relationship to God as a son. By adoption, then, we become sons of God and are introduced into and are given the privileges that belong to membership of God’s family…

We can now see why the Apostle uses this particular term ‘adoption.’ It is as if he was not content with saying that we have become children of God by the second birth; he wants us to realize where we stand, and what our rank and privileges are.”

God’s Ultimate Purpose – An Exposition of Ephesians 1:1-23 – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Baker Book House 1978 – ISBN: 0801055911

The Children of God (2)

August 14, 2017

The Children of God (2)

 In our previous study, we introduced this brief text:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 5:1,2

 

 

 

The Apostle, by the Spirit of God, is calling upon the people of God to a life of love and whole-hearted commitment. In these two brief sentences, the very essence of our life calling as believers is laid before us.

We find here that this call to commitment is not delivered as a commanding officer might bark out so many orders to his troops. No, here we have an appeal from a brother, who is numbering himself as one with those to whom he makes his appeal. In earnestness, he is reaching out to us within the bonds of filial love — that love, which seals the relationship between a father and his children. Paul is speaking as a brother, his heart filled with a sense of his Father’s love. His entreaty is no less for himself than for his brothers and sisters to whom he is writing.

We considered in our last study that there are two facets of the redemptive work of God in His establishing this relationship. The first is generally referred to as the new birth,” or regeneration. We saw that the Bible teaches we are not by nature the children of God. By nature we are born as the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. We inherited his sinful nature, and under that guilt, which he bore in his rebellion.

We saw that if any were ever to be considered children of God, God, Himself must intervene. That intervention was in the form of redemptive grace. That act of God, whereby through the willing sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, He accomplished once, and for all time, our redemption and deliverance; creating a new principle of life in us, a new creation.

The new birth, then, is the first work of God in establishing this new relationship of filial love with those whom He has chosen in Christ. The bulk of our continuing studies rest upon this foundation. We move now into a fuller consideration of the second aspect of God’s work, Adoption. Whereas we saw that by the new birth, we are given new natures; new life in Christ, by adoption we are given new names, being brought into the family of God in Christ.

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  – Gospel of John 1:12

We, in fact, can say that adoption is the legal act of God in bringing these new born ones into His family as sons and daughters of faith. God, taking the rebel sons and daughters of Adam, “still-born” in their sins, breathing the new spirit of life into them by the spiritual new birth and granting to them the privilege to be called His own dear children.

In our last study, we sought to grasp and believe the biblical truth that this status of sonship is a present reality for us. If by faith you have believed on Christ, and his redemptive sacrifice on your behalf, you are a child of God. You have been granted a place of deep and abiding affection in God’s heart.

We must await the day when we shall be ushered into the fullness of His presence before we can fully understand and experience just how wondrous and pervasive that love is. Such is the nature of faith. Yet, do not think for a moment that His fatherly love for us is somehow less now, as He deals with our wayward ways. His love for us will not then be any more real and full than it is today. Today, He loves us fully, without reserve.

We must also know that we are not expected to wait until that day before we can have intimate access with our God. This is a privilege of our sonship, not one we can only earn by the merit of our obedience. To shy from this fatherly affection out of a sense of our unworthiness is not a sign of humility; it is disrespectful.

That attitude, which grovels in uncertainty and hesitancy before God’s throne, is a rejection of the love He has committed to us. It causes us to push aside the very nature and essence of the relationship God, Himself has established by the redemption that is in Christ. He draws us back, again and again to that place where we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Holy Spirit both implants this desire in us, and draws forth this cry from the deepness of our hearts. By this, He freshly reminds His children of the privilege given us in Christ.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Letter to the Hebrews 4:16

Now, as we move on to take up further aspects of the redemptive grace of our adoption into the family of God, I would like to offer a basic definition, which may help guide us in our continuing studies.

Adoption is that filial relationship established by God,

  • according to His own sovereign choice,
  • with those whom He has redeemed from a state of bondage,
  • and has given new life in Christ,
  • and has sealed through the gift of the Holy Spirit indwelling them,
  • and is composed of mutual responsibilities and privileges common to father/child relations.

In saying that the fundamental character, or nature of this relationship is that of intimate filial access, we have but touched its foundation. This is not the entirety of the relationship established in our adoption. Built upon the foundational principle of true, intimate filial love and unhindered access is the superstructure of the relationship: the specific responsibilities and privileges. These include both the responsibilities assumed by God toward His children in grace, and those, which God has charged his adopted children. That is, those which pertain to God, and those which pertain to us.

As we consider this 2-fold division, we will be doing so with reference to the responsibilities in the relationship. It is important to understand that while we speak of these responsibilities and corresponding privileges, those privileges are defined by the responsibilities. That is, as God discharges His responsibilities as our heavenly Father, we partake of them as our privileges in the relationship He has established. And, as amazing as it may sound, the same is true in a real sense of the privileges that God receives as we discharge our primary responsibilities to Him. This is the reciprocal nature of the relationship.

In our next study, we will begin to unfold more of what we find in God’s word regarding this unfathomable relationship.

 

– higherfragrance

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The Children of God (1)

August 13, 2017

Frosty leaves-rising sun bkgd_IMG_2515

 

 

With this first post, I am launching a new blog series:

higherfragrance:

Faithful – In the Light

 

I have chosen this particular biblical topic because it has long been on my heart to explore it more deeply. Several lifetimes ago, in 1990, I had finally come to the completion of my studies at a private, non-degreed, four-year Academy established for post-graduate Ministerial studies.

           Overwhelmingly, my favorite courses were in Systematic and Biblical Theology. In our last semester, we had to choose a topic for our term papers. I chose the topic upon which this blog series is based, “Adoption.” Preparation for that paper affected me in such a profound and lasting way, that I have frequently returned to explore the topic further.

For over two decades now, my hope has been to finally come to the place where I am ready to write a book on the subject. You might say that in pulling together this series, I am finally making an attempt to take steps toward that goal.

I do hope you will both enjoy and be stirred, perhaps deeply, in investing the time to follow these posts. I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

– higherfragrance

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The Children of God  (1)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 5:1,2.

Intro to the Study

The Apostle, by the Spirit of God, is here calling upon the people of God to a life of commitment. This commitment to which we are called is within the bonds of filial love. The concept of filial love concerns that relationship, which exists between a father and his children. In the Bible, this relationship is, in its depth and strength, second only to the relationship established between a husband and wife.

In verse 1, when we are called “dear children,” literally, “children beloved,” there is laid before us a blessed reality. This reality forms one of the most foundational points of encouragement to the true child of God. It opens to us the unfathomable truth that the Lord God of heaven and earth has graciously condescended to look upon us in love – “beloved children.” Further, that this is not just any kind of love. No, this love, which God has purposed to lavish upon those whom He has chosen in Christ, is the love of a father for his children.

Considering the rich term, “beloved children,” in verse 1, this is really the starting point for understanding the injunction, “be followers of God.” So, we take up now the concept of “filial love” expressed in the term, “beloved children.” With every real relationship, there are certain responsibilities and privileges, which form its bond. The filial relationship we will be exploring is one that should be familiar to us.

However, it is a sad commentary upon the times we are living, that fewer and fewer people have any understanding at all of the concept. There seems to be so little real conception of what a father’s love consists, and what it is to be truly loved by a father, and in return for a child to fully love that father.

If we would understand the truth of this passage and how we are to respond in light of it, we must step back and consider the actual relationship of which it speaks. And so, we take up the topic of “Filial Love” as it is made plain in scripture. The first thing we need to notice is that the Bible addresses the subject under a broader category, or theme, that of “Adoption.”

There is actually a two-fold issue that must be reckoned with in studying the subject of “Filial Love;” the New Birth and Adoption. Considering the new birth, there is a fundamental truth taught throughout the Bible, which must be understood before the concept of the new birth makes any sense at all. Men are not the children of God by nature. When we are born, our linage traces back to our first father, Adam.

We are – all of us are, the sons and daughters of Adam. We have inherited his nature, passed from every father to every child, tracing back to the beginning. That nature, the core of what we are is consistently described and displayed throughout scripture in the worst possible of terms.

We come forth into this world with natures that are contrary to God and as rebels against His law. A little earlier in this letter to the Ephesians (2:1-3), Paul states it plainly, “…we were by nature children of wrath...” — that is, “children upon whom God’s wrath rested.” Entire sections of both the Old and New Testaments expose this hard fact. Also, as seen throughout the recorded history of the world, there is revealed that there is something  fundamentally, and seriously wrong in play.

“God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.“ – Psalm 53:2,3

We are not naturally the children of God. By our inheritance of the sinful nature and guilt of our father Adam, we are born with sinful natures. Also, by the sins that we actively commit, stretching back before our earliest recollections, we have and continue to compound our guilt and manifest our wicked natures. This is the dark backdrop to the biblical concept of the New Birth. All men are dead in their sins and are by nature children of sin. They are objects not of God’s love, but of His righteous wrath.

How is it then, that some among the children of Adam come to be called “the children of God?”

”He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” – Gospel of John 1:10-13

The birth of which is spoken here is not the natural birth, nor is it by means of natural relations, such as being a child of a Christian parent, neither is it achieved by trying to clean up your act and becoming a new, better you. The birth referenced in this passage is the New Birth, sovereignly wrought by the will and power of God. God, taking those who are by nature children of wrath, born in sin, dead in their trespasses and sins, and creating a new principle of life in them.

Jesus later, in John’s Gospel declares, “Most assuredly, I say unto you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He goes on to declare, “Do not marvel that I say unto you, ‘You must be born again.’ Notice, He does not say, “you can be born again,’ or “you ought to be born again,” or that “If you so chose when you’re good and ready, you may be born again.”

He does not say that you can be, you ought to be, or that by your choice you may be. No, Jesus says, “Don’t be astonished that I say to you, that you must be…” For, if we comprehended but the smallest aspect of our natural condition and state before God, we couldn’t help but grasp that if we were ever to find favor with God, it must be by God taking the initiative. It must be by His power, it must be through His work, it must be by His creative act of bringing forth new life.

So, does this mean that God just reaches out from heaven and zaps us with this new life, and bamm (!) there I am, all brand spanking new? No, although it is through His power that new life is given, the first principle of that life is the opening of our eyes to the dark truth of our natural condition. This, creating a deep desire to be free of its deathly stench, gives rise to reach out in the faith, which He is working in us.

This is that faith, which is necessary for me to believe and embrace the message of new life. The gospel message, which announces the good news that Jesus, the Son of God, has taken the full penalty of our sin, and has fully extinguished that wrath which had personally rested upon me. It is God’s work from beginning to end, including drawing forth from me, my willing confession of faith, which He inspired in me, as well as the repentance, which He requires of me.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  – Paul to the Ephesians, chapter 2:8-10

The New Birth, then, is the first work of God in establishing the brand new relationship of filial love with those chosen in Christ. Without understanding this, there is no clear path in grasping the truth of our being adopted into His family to be beloved sons and daughters. It was out of the corruption of our natural, orphaned state that he rescued us, breathed new life into us, cleansed and dressed us, and put our feet on a new path.

In our next study, we will move into the work of God in bringing us into His family, Adoption.

 

culture

June 7, 2016

 

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http://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/the-5-hour-workday-how-to-increase-productivity-by-working-fewer-hours.html

         This interview with Stephen Aarstol (see the link) is quite interesting, though not necessarily in a positive or inspiring way…

 

The lead statement immediately captured my attention: “You may be paying your employees for an eight-hour day, but the truth is most of them are doing about two-three hours of real work, and just taking all day to do it.” Continuing the thought, it is stated that “a ton of time is squandered” and “productivity is being faked.”

Interestingly, the solution for this highly dysfunctional business environment was to cut the employees workdays back to 5 hours. The challenge to the staff was, “With increased pressure to perform, employees had to teach themselves to be highly productive. If they couldn’t do it they would be fired…” The story goes on to demonstrate how the team accepted and rose to the challenge, and loved the results.

As I read through the interview, a single thought kept hitting me, how in the world did such a counter-productive business culture evolve? How could it come to the point where it was presumed that “most” of the employees were cheating the company out of 5 to 6 hours of productivity a day?

Of course, that thought was quickly replaced with several others. Where was the management team as this culture developed? How was it possible for there to be widespread faking of production records? Were performance reviews being regularly conducted, and if so, how was it that these people kept their jobs? How was it that the management team kept their jobs? How did the company even stay in business?

There is, of course no way to get to the bottom of those questions with regard to this company’s history. And, I’m certainly glad for them that they were able to turn it around and become the highly successful company they are today. However, I would like to consider some generic thoughts regarding caustic working environments that foster this type of widespread production loss and dishonest reporting.

I would like to believe that a company’s culture reflects the goals and expectations of its primary stakeholders and management team. Where there is a clearly communicated expectation of excellence, supported by a team of committed managers and leads, there will be a corresponding culture that is pervasively marked by excellence. For those who are unable or unwilling to perform to task, there are remedial steps that will be enacted to lead them up, or out.

It is also clear that a company’s stated culture must be aggressively nourished for it to be maintained long-term. For whatever reason, once the management begins to accept a downward slide in the ethics of any in their charge, the entire culture can become at risk. It could be that the overwhelming majority of the staff believes the culture’s goal of excellence and a fair working environment. Yet, they start to see the downward slide being left unaddressed, and then begin to become discouraged.

When such a slide is first recognized, there are a lot of questions and issues that must be faced. The first, and most primary is, “Who are we? This is a return to the beginning: the mission statement, the culture, and the resulting work environment. The hard questions follow, but none of those really matter without honestly facing the first.

Perhaps the key (if there even is such a thing) is a periodic gathering of the primary stakeholders, management with some key lead staff to consider this primary question afresh. Honestly address successes and failures and the means necessary to keep the culture fresh, true and inspired. If the actual prevailing culture is representative of the company, what is more important than its nourishment and maintenance? To the degree that it is not, what could be more important than addressing it?

Your thoughts?

 

is there a path back?

May 25, 2016

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The tug of the familiar is always present, as are the memories of an earlier time. We connect with them in a much different way than we lived them…

 

The familiar was not always a comfortable place. It roughly intruded into my life, and forced itself upon me. I don’t really remember the struggle; I only remember that my resistance slowly became acceptance. It is now a safe place, where I know that I am always welcome. I find that I am reluctant to stray far, but I am somehow all right with that.

Nostalgia is a word we made up to distract ourselves from the present struggle. It provides us the means to look back safely on a time that was anything but safe as we experienced it. Those days were filled with uncertainty; we narrowly escaped them with our lives. Every bad choice we made led to another. We were learning as we went, but always the hard way. We can now laugh at these things, and derive a bit of needed courage from them, seeing that we did indeed survive them.

Although we experience a present sense of bearing from both the familiar and our nostalgic way of remembering earlier times, they are also personally limiting. They are made up of an uncertain alliance we have made with caution. That alliance is uncertain because there is no lasting friendship possible with caution. It offers simply a momentary suspension of time in order to force a decision on the next step.

We limit our possibilities, withdrawing into the familiar and building alliances with caution. Life is highly disruptive and laughs at our cautious ways. The path forward, however, doesn’t require throwing caution to the wind and forsaking the familiar. Caution is a tool in our hands, as we cut our way through unfamiliar terrain. What we have learned from the familiar assists us in our current struggle to understand our encounters along the way.

Although you and I are always feeling that slight tug upon us to settle in, is that really as safe a place as we imagine? We hear that gentle whisper to turn and retreat to earlier times, but is there really a path back? And even if there were, why would you want to go back there, seeing there is so much ahead?

 

heard any good stories lately?

March 11, 2016

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A good storyteller will always capture you.

It is likely that you won’t even realize that it is happening. At some point during the monologue you shift from simply hearing and begin seeing, feeling and experiencing the tale. A connection is made that you are not fully aware of until the story is finished.

Possibly the most interesting aspect of the connection between the teller and the hearer is how we each contribute from our own experiences to the actual story. As the color of the sky is woven into the story, it is that striking, clear blue that has so often captured your eye, which you paint into the narrative. It is the lush green clover of your childhood experiences that covers the hills beyond. You have begun to discover the story together as each visual, sensual and emotional aspect of the scene unfolds. You are contributing as much to the story as the storyteller.

The story is new each time it is told, not because it has changed, but because it comes to life afresh only in the telling. Each person who hears, also sees, feels and contributes to its freshness. The storyteller senses that contribution, and incorporates that energy into the story that has been repeated so many times before. The story does not change, but it has been born one more time.

Storytelling has been called a rare art in its purest sense; an art that is expressed and given life and breath through gifted individuals. This may be true, but that is not the whole story. A story is given life only in the telling and hearing of it, as each infuse their unique life breath into its narrative.

I believe that this is what provides storytelling the ability to reach that deep place inside which seems to long for its touch. This is how even the simplest of stories capture us, and with mere words, incite our emotions and imagination to participate in its unfolding.

In the truest sense, we are all storytellers, though not necessarily gifted ones. It is out of the deep well of our life experiences that we learn how to communicate and connect with others. We share from this store of learned lessons, sights, sounds and sensations. We long to connect and experience together our individual worlds. However recluse one might tend to become, that longing never loses its grasp. In the honest expression of that longing is created community.

Have you heard any good stories lately?